Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A New World Odor of Nothing

On a June night in 1996 the entire niche world of professional wrestling changed forever. What a whole generation of children and now young adults had been raised to believe came crashing down and it hurt inside. The beacon of hope, the embodiment of positivity for a whole universe had finally shown his true colors and they were black and white. Us wrestling fans knew things would never be the same, and even less of us knew it would prove to be the end of an entire way of life for the business.

On a November night in 2016, the entire world changed in an instant. The embodiment of affluence, snarkiness, and excess had done what no one thought he could do that covered the political world. The man that had been the joke of the campaign, a sure-fire fizzle out that never exactly went away. The man that everyone knew would be beaten like a drum by Her and we were left wondering what in the hell just happened. We knew, even those that never followed the political game, that life would not be the same again. We had no idea that it would become a trinket on a long, heavy chain of despair and embarrassment that is the history of the United States of America.

So why do I bring these two wholy different things up in one forum? How in the world could Hulk Hogan forming the New World Order on a wrestling pay-per-view 21 years ago have anything to do with the Donald Trump election victory? Surely there’s nothing to learn from pro wrestling, especially when it comes to how we digest what has happened to our country and society. Maybe there is though. Maybe there is too much to learn from it that no one has the gall to begin to look at it because it is that dirty, nasty dish in the sink that you’ve ignored until the stench forces you to take action. After all, Hogan and Trump are two old, white dudes that are so far removed from reality that we’d be better off expecting them to turn the sky grey rather than go buy their own groceries. Two men that are pivotal in their own worlds, idols of what their fans and confidants want to believe is best for the world. Hogan had Ed Leslie, Trump has Kelly Anne Conway. Hogan had Bischoff in his back pocket, the puppet that he used to control the coming and goings of WCW, Trump has big business and the most inept of Republican power to persuade all of us that it is going to be ok and he’ll bring order to the world. Both were and are full of complete shit.

Moreso, there’s the part of Randy Savage. Many of us fans tend to forget exactly who was the victim of Hogan’s wrath that night other than every fan in the building and at home. Savage was the blind follower, sure as shit that Hogan would never do the wrong thing because he KNEW the man. He knew Hogan for over a decade and while they’d had their battles there was an aire of respect there at least on camera. Sometimes however, the most faithful are the ones destroyed first. Some would say that the comparision works best for Hillary Clinton but not too fast. Was she truly the victim on that November Wednesday when the shit hit the fan? Or was she just another one of the accomplices that allowed this world to shift? This is the story of how a wrestling dork from the 90’s found far too much in common with the ordeals and how perhaps we can learn from it all.

I was as die hard for the Bernie Sanders cause as anyone by the summer of 2016. He embodied what I felt was right with America; a self made man from a small state with a modest savings account that had fought wrongs his entire career. He had been the voice of Vermont for several years by the time he threw his hat in the ring for 2016. It wasn’t his first Presidential rodeo, having lost many bids in the past but this time was different. After a hugely disappointing 8 years under Obama, the people wanted more from their government. They wanted affordable ways to better themselves and Sanders spoke to those people so eloquently and clearly. He was the every man and by god, I’m always a sucker for those. Then things began to feel strange. Hillary began to throw her vicious venom his way and things got stronger in his favor while oddly the polls said otherwise. By the late summer, it was clear that a divide in the Democratic Party was real. There were the old, “blue dog” Democrats that were much less progressive who held all the cards in the hierarchy that wanted their woman Hillary in power. Then there were the younger, ground-floor Dems that demanded a Sanders bid. It got ugly and ugly fast as the convention rolled onward. The morning after both angered and shook me forever. After a bizarre convention, it was announced that Hillary Clinton would challenge for the big seat and it felt wrong. Not just because I disagreed with her but because the numbers weren’t there. After weeks of hearing that Sanders was a long shot but online all the credible polls had him ahead he loses in an instant. It felt very 1968 and it felt like a sham. Then Sanders went on the Morning Show to blindly endorse the very woman he had accused of heinous crimes as if it all never happened. I was robbed of the last hope I had for this country as a President and I was angry.

Randy Savage in the summer of 1996 was already a legend. He embodied incredible work in the ring but also appealled to the more casual of fans because of his colorful promos and look. He was a true icon in the sport and about as close to infaliable as you could get. Despite a rocky beginning in WCW, he’d remained relevant as the “Outsiders” invaded WCW in the spring in the form of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. He banded together with the WCW staples Sting and Lex Luger to fight evil for the sake of his new home. Sure, he was a longtime WWF “superstar” but he’d been the hero in the picture since he made his jump in late 1994. As the Bash at the Beach show went on, the question of who would join Nash and Hall was the anchor of it all. Savage almost seemed uninterested and blindly ready for war. That proved to be his downfall. He believed the good nature of his partners and he would conquer all and yet he was stabbed in the back by the man he knew best Hulk Hogan in the worst of ways when he needed him most. The very entity that aided his entrance into WCW both on camera and off had dropped his leg on all the beliefs that he held best. Surely, this would mean vengeance. Instead, by the early part of 1997 things were different. The nWo changed the wrestling world and more eyes than ever were on the entire world of wrestling but especially WCW. Savage had lost luster but remained true to WCW as they embarked on their February card SuperBrawl. It would be WCW Champion Hogan in his new black and white against another old foe, former WWF mega star Roddy Piper. Savage waited in the shadows and watched the events unfold, long enough to put his own dagger in the hearts of many. Rather than remain with his heart, he took the money and ran by assaulting Piper and joining the darkside with the nWo. As a near 8 year old, I was both excited and crushed in a bizarre way. I felt robbed but I also felt an anxiety for the future.

Nearly 20 years later, I had that same feeling at 7 AM in my parents’ home watching a shaking Bernie Sanders concede to the Clinton cause. I watched what I thought was real become a clear illusion and I was tired. I had long been an adult so things like this should have been the norm for me but I really believed in Sanders. For some odd reason, much like I felt about Savage and WCW, I felt a loyalty to him and a belief that if there’s one things true about politics it was that Bernie Sanders was a stand-up guy. That feeling died on that early morning and even now it could never live again. Even after his pledges of loyalty because of his declaration as an Independent, I couldn’t trust him again. He’d promised a lawsuit against the Democrats and what happened to it? He promised us everything and all along he couldn’t deliver. I’m sure I find myself hating him far too much than what he deserves but I don’t know what else to do. He helped Trump win more than anyone because after the Sanders debacle, Hillary wasn’t going to win over the people she needed. He was the Cruela DeVille of America and we all knew it even the ones that wore her stupid pins and t-shirts. It was another Time Warner merger to stab us in the back right before our eyes and yet, we’ve become a society of people that do that sort of thing to ourselves because we fear change. We fear the courage it takes to really make a difference and it shows so brightly in how things have gone since January of this year. Up shit creek without a paddle as they say in my Arkansas. The tumultuous Trump Administration even shocks me. His clear and unyielding arrogance has us more hated now than even that clown Bush Jr. could dream of dragging us down into. We’re the sardine can of countries and it insults me and any other American that does give a shit and is informed. Educated people that dedicate themselves to betterment and progress not because it is trendy but because it is the right and fair thing to do. We’re the minority in a sea of mouth-breathing bums that somehow found their way into power yet again. Money is everything and it was never more evident than that summer morning.

So what exactly happened with the nWo thing? It ran roughshod over WCW and the wrestling world for years. It brought bigger success to WCW than it had ever known, breaking them into the pop culture lexicon for an entire generation. Massive celebrities yearned to be a part of the show and were, usually to the detriment of the younger and skilled talents on the roster. It was special until it wasn’t. By the end of 1998 it was clear the bloom was off the rose and along with that came a backroom deal that sealed their fate completely. WCW was owned by Turner Broadcasting and had been since 1988 after Jim Crockett Jr. was forced to sell due to financial strain. Turner had long vowed that no matter the loses, WCW would live because he felt he owed the business that due to it being his first successful show on the fledgling TBS Superstation at the dawn of cable back in the late 1970’s. Even through some of the worst years, that rang true and it proved to be a positive for him in the long term after the nWo caught fire. The world had changed by the end of the 1990’s however and the corporate world was volatile. Turner had made the decision to acquire the young online juggernaut AOL to bolster their profits and it proved to be their downfall. In an unprecidented move, AOL themselves were in charge of the merger and because of that WCW suffered. AOL’s executives were now in power and Turner was merely the face of the new AOL-Time Warner corporation. The days of using Teddy’s checkbook on a whim were over and AOL was not very fond of the business. At first things seemed business as usual but by the end of 1999 it was clear to many that things were very wrong. Restraints were thrown on the company all the while money was being thrown in every which way with no rhyme or reason for it. Then the decision was made to bring in Vince Russo, a longtime “writer” for the rival World Wrestling Federation to help with the creative decisions. This, along with the disinterest of AOL towards the product lent a massive hand in the downfall. Russo was given limitations that were ignored or misguided and it wasn’t long until the cards began to fall. Ratings plummeted on their television shows, all of which were obviously Turner channels and that was enough for AOL to deem them a liability. By the end of 2000 it was a shell of a company. Eric Bischoff, the man tha that had led WCW to their largest heights and the brain behind the nWo execution began to scramble to save the company. Rumors came from all abound that Fusient Media would be partners, a group that’s biggest claim to fame was selling their classic sports channel to ESPN and in turn creating ESPN Classic in a multi-million dollar deal. They were very interested in taking WCW to new heights, until AOL announced that they were no longer honoring their television deals ultimately deeming WCW dead to rights. Any good business person wouldn’t acquire something with no possible revenue stream like that. House shows were non-existent after years of talents no-showing or last minute booking changes. The earth was scorched and what once was the largest wrestling entity ever known was dead only 5 years after their historic rise.

Things weren’t great but they could have been expounded upon as Barack Obama left his post as President. Student loan policy had improved greatly, the economy was slowly rising, and social issues were largely being addressed. By no means am I a huge fan of Obama but the man at least knew policy. He knew what was plausible and what wasn’t and most importantly he had a strong poker face. As Trump began his term, a feeling of uneasiness was beginning to flood. Democrats refused to even begin working with him even when it was logical to do so. Republicans were beginning to lose faith in him after countless, mindless tweets sent late in the nights. Then the Russian scandal broke. Not long after that came corruption claims within his own cabinet and we’ve been left with a country in flames ever since. What will be of this country I’m unsure. As a teen I had always believed we could never do worse than George W and here I am a decade later realizing it could have been so much worse. We could have had a non-intellectual at the helm with no desire to better anyone or anything aside from his own self-interest. In short, we got a megalomaniac yet again as our president. We got Nixon to the highest power and that was our biggest mistake. Our generation gave ourselves what we deserve after years of silence on key issues. We could have prevented it all, much like WCW should have known they were burning the candle at both ends. Simply, neither of them cared about that. I doubt that they didn’t know they were doomed, they wanted to take the money and run much like these pseudo-activists are now. They’re not protesting just because Trump sucks, they’re doing it for Facebook likes and retweets. They’re doing it so that a decade from now they can look cool to their snot-nosed dork kids when in reality they did fuck all. Us wrestling fans have it rough because we can’t get relief from it all sometimes. It is meant to be an escape but instead it acts as a sad allegory for the real world. Sometimes things are too good to be true and when they are, we should right the wrongs rather than follow along in blind faith. Damn you heroes, all you ever end up doing is turning heel on us. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Ballad of Bork Laser

Ding dong the witch is dead, or at least he almost is. It has been said as of today that chances are, Brock Lesnar is no longer part of WWE after WrestleMania 34 which means an end to a whole lot of things. For one, his run as Universal Champion which has been perhaps the least useful Championship reign in history. The fact that a man held a title for several months before defending it even once shows anyone with rudimentary grasp of simple logic that booking today sucks. He has shown the wrestling world that he is a complete waste with the title that should be gaining importance not even a year after its inception. The worst part is that some good in Florida shouldn't have to bring this up for someone to act. 

Don't get me wrong, Brock is a mega star and an incredible athlete. Perhaps the most incredible athlete in my lifetime from any sport ever in fact. When he came to the WWE tv screens for the first time in 2002 I was a huge mark for the guy. He was one of the few men that could destroy several all alone. He was huge, fast, and scarily crisp which meant he got the Roman push before Roman graduated high school. The difference was that it wasn't long until Brock got over. Super over to the point that within 3 months he beat The Rock for the then Undisputed World Championship. The world was his oyster and for nearly 2 years he dominated but it wasn't what he wanted in life. He hated people and travel and thus he decided to try the NFL out for size. That was perhaps Brock’s first failure in life and before training camp ended for the Vikings he was cut. Brock quickly went to New Japan Pro Wrestling where, again, he dominated. 

Japan is another world in a lot of ways and Brock clearly wasn't in love with the sport the way a gaijin should to succeed there. Of all people, Kurt Angle would find himself the man to beat Brock and take the IWGP title so that Brock could begin yet another venture, a fledgling sport that had just caught fire called Mixed Martial Arts. 

Brock was immediately a top prospect simply from his amateur wrestling history as a former NCAA national champion at Minnesota. Yet again, Brock flourished in his new environment even with a couple of losses on the way. The main advantage was his superior strength, which single handedly won him the UFC Heavyweight title within a year and thanks to his brutally honest post-fight interviews he became the top draw in all of MMA. Brock’s title defense against Frank Mir at UFC 100 was a record breaker for the company and aided the boom period that mma was having. All was for the taking it seemed. 

Brock defended his title against Shane Carwin in spectacular fashion but this would be his last decisive win. Shortly after his defense he became ill. What first seemed like a minor issue quickly became life threatening and in the end Brock was diagnosed with diverticulitis, a rare disorder caused by high red meat diets that basically means your guts rot out and you could die. Many believed he would be stripped of the title and retire and perhaps that was the smart move.  Instead, Brock continued on and defended his championship against Cain Velasquez, a Young up-and-coming fighter that had been on fire in the weight class. Brock came in and despite his courage and comeback he was beaten in brutal fashion. Brock Lesnar’s aura was lessening for the first time really ever and it felt rather sad. 

Brock tried to win yet again in the UFC but was stopped in embarrassing fashion by Allistair Overeem and thus retired from the sport. Most would sit at home and live off their winnings but Lesnar immediately made a big move. The night after WrestleMania 28 felt like a funeral because of a rather lackluster card top to bottom so RAW had to deliver. The show came and went as John Cena came to the ring to discuss losing to The Rock at WrestleMania. His promo went on without a hitch and as the show ended, a familiar song interrupted things and out came Lesnar on a WWE show for the first time in 8 years. He walked to the ring and proceeded to lay out Cena to the adulation of all. It was epic and it felt fresh. 

Lesnar was used as an attraction from the beginning. Even though he lost to Cena in the first match back (lolcenawins?) he bounced back by feuding with Triple H for the months going into the next year’s WrestleMania. Along with Brock came Heyman, the biggest story in ages after his nasty exit from WWE thanks to the failed ECW relaunch. Things felt as if they were evolving and Lesnar was treated as a true monster going over any and everyone (other than Triple H or Cena). As all this was happening, Lesnar wasn't anywhere near the top titles on either brand or eventually the unbranded WWE. Again, it can't be stressed enough that he was an attraction and an attraction shouldn't need a title to be deemed legitimate. That was never clearer than when he was announced as the opponent for Undertaker at the 30th WrestleMania. 

I'd been a fan for about 20 years the weekend of WrestleMania 30. I'd seen a lot and felt that I could just about figure out any angle or build within reason so it felt like an afterthought to say that Lesnar was yet again going to be on the losing end at the biggest show of the year. Undertaker looked different though even in his limited appearances before the show. He looked old and human for the first time in ages and worse than ever before. That didn't matter though because he never could lose right? Millions of us were wrong though. 

Some will say that Lesnar beating Undertaker and ending the WrestleMania streak was the biggest win in history and I definitely wouldn't go that far. To me there are countless examples of biggest win and while this was huge it wasn't on that scheme to me. Had it been 2003 I'd say otherwise but by WrestleMania 30 all us longstanding fans expected it to end long ago and if we were honest we wanted it to be. It had become a horribly outplayed move for the biggest show of the year and that kind of thing hurts a mega event after a while in my view. Nonetheless I have to say it is one of the largest WrestleMania moments ever so really who cares either way? This was the beginning of the Lesnar we see today which isn't really a good thing. 

SummerSlam came only months later and the landscape was horribly disheveled. Daniel Bryan was finally the top star and unified World Champion yet unhealthy to keep things rolling. This was the beginning of the end of his entire career sadly and thus, yet another reset was made meaning….lolcenawinsthetitle! It was decided that Lesnar would get his big title shot a month later and again, it all felt wrong. It didn't matter and Cena was thrown around like a sack of shit before being pinned and again, Lesnar shocked the wrestling world. It was his first WWE title win in over a decade and it would be assumed this meant a full time commitment and again, we would be wrong.  

Lesnar went home and rarely appeared. This led to Seth Rollins having to take the ball and be the top heel on weekly tv and helped him tremendously. The title? It looked like shit. In it’s place was feuds between younger stars that were doing all they could to climb the political ladder. Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, and yes even Roman Reigns began getting their first chances in main events and while that helped a lot it also felt like a placation in replacement of having a World title to vy for. 

Brock’s first and only effective defense in my mind was at the Royal Rumble show of 2015. There he faced the tried and true mega star John Cena as well as the latest youngster to try his hand at fame Seth Rollins. On paper it looked like it would be good and all but few felt this could be truly memorable. Those three men showed the world they are top notch and especially Rollins, who took wild bumps and delivered some incredible offense as well. It felt as though Rollins was a peer in that moment with the two huge names left in wrestling.

WrestleMania 31 was lackluster much in the same ways that the 28th edition was. There were big stars and all but the card was disjointed. The legendarily failed Sting and Triple H match is just one of the many missed marks that were left on that crowd in San Jose. The main event however was intriguing with Lesnar in the spot of infalliable champion to the challenger Roman Reigns’ short rise to success. Even at that time, Roman was getting heat for simply getting a push but was not nearly as damaged as he is today. It did feel ok as a main event, even if I didn’t think it was going to deliver much and in that vain I was horribly mistaken.
Right off the bat, it was physical and bloody. Roman was beaten to absolute shit by Lesnar who did every possible suplex and striking combination you could imagine. In one of the wildest spots, Roman went for his drive-by from the floor and Lesnar took his head almost completely off with a clothesline that left Roman in a heap. Roman brought things back with a very solid comeback and just as he was going to win the big one, his former friend from The Shield pulled off the biggest surprise in WrestleMania history since lolHoganbeatsYokozuna. Seth Rollins ran down the long ramp to the ring and within a matter of one minute he was the new WWE World Champion. It felt like something that shouldn’t have been broadcast in a bizarre way and it felt like wrestling used to when I was a child: absolute chaos.

Rollins had a damn good run for what it was going forward. Lesnar was again back at home for the rest of the spring and Rollins used that time to get some heat. Rollins was unlike a lot of heel champions in this era because he genuinely attempted to be hated. He would do his tried and true, scripted bullshit lines but his delivery was the key. He could say stupid things but sell them to make you believe he really was that damn pompous. A stellar program with Dean Ambrose was stunted by, guess who? Battleground 2015 felt like a death sentence but in the end, Rollins survived only thanks to a rogue Undertaker return. In perhaps the dumbest thing that WWE did in 2015, Undertaker ran in on Lesnar and proceeded to be a nasty, 1974 heel. Look, I get what some would think about this whole thing: Undertaker lost his streak to this man and logic would say he’d be very angry about it. He would want to pull out all the stops to beat the “conqueror” but to me if the Deadman has to cheat to win he’s useless. It’s different when he’s the biker Undertaker because that Undertaker is human but this is mystical Undertaker and mystical beings should be above low blows and shit.

This led to a rather...blah kind of run through the rest of 2015 between the two. Some loved it and yes, it drew some more interest for the short term but in my book it didn’t move the needle in the way that kind of thing should have. This felt like a WrestleMania 32 situation but was thrown onto side events for what seemed like no reason. Lesnar would go on to win the feud and again, left in the dark without a partner it seemed. Naturally this meant he went home for months on end and when he came back, it was an unlikely foe that met him head on in Dean Ambrose.

To say I was excited about the No Holds Barred match between Ambrose and Lesnar at WrestleMania 32 is an understatement. I made a point to drive several hours deep into the Ozarks to see this shit with my mark friend PJ because it felt like a must-see event. Would Lesnar be beaten by the young star or would Ambrose be left in a bloody heap like he was back in his old CZW days? It wasn’t built the best, with a notoriously dogshit angle that included Ambrose dragging a red wagon with weapons down to the ring like some school child. In hindsight, that should have tipped me off to how things would be. How were things you ask? Short. That’s the best word for that situation and it left me both angry and confused. If Ambrose spent 2015 in a marquee position either in the main event or right below just to be dominated by Lesnar in a matter of a few minutes what in the fuck was WWE’s plan here? 

The plan it seemed was Lesnar over everything and everyone. Even though that WrestleMania closed with Roman Reigns holding the title high, he wasn’t the real star. The real star was clearly Lesnar because all the others were either positioned as not good enough or not smart enough. The summer of 2016 brought us this recent brand split and with that came the announcement of Lesnar’s new home and unsurprisngly it was the flagship show RAW. Great, RAW uses one of their first picks on a part-time guy and again it was positioned as the biggest move of all the moves. 

The brand split did help everyone and I can’t deny that. If it weren’t for the split who knows if we would have seen so many people elevated that clearly deserved it. AJ Styles was the biggest winner of anyone and became the franchise player of the new SmackDown Live and I can’t say that would have happened the same way without a split roster. The same can be said for Finn Balor who within a month became RAW’s first ever Universal Champion however yet again it was an injury, in the same way that Bryan’s injury in 2014 altered things, that led to that title being vacated after just one night. That void was filled by Kevin Owens rather than Lesnar but we would learn that it was all in due time.

Lesnar spent 2016 in the shadows for the most part until an old face came back ino the WWE fold. WWE’s 2K game franchise has become its own entity over the last few years, becoming a huge part of the WWE year. In prior years there were the mending of fences between several old stars and the company and so the decision was made to focus the game around Goldberg as a playable character for the 2017 edition. The plan was simply game related and no plans were originally made for him to even be on WWE tv in any major capacity but the fans got so into Goldberg again. It was like seeing bellbottoms come back into style in the 90’s and wondering why everyone got so high all the sudden. So because of this groundswell of popularity, he was instead given the marquee position and who do you think that was working with? You’re getting better at this game.

So it was announced after countless, generic promos that Goldberg would make his return to WWE against the man he beat last Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series in Toronto. This was surrounded by a rushed SmackDown vs RAW feud throughout the card and that helped this situation tremendously. Because almost all other matches felt flat or all around useless that meant that Lesnar vs Goldberg was instantly bigger and better. It felt to me like when the old guys fight in Bellator: sure it is fun to watch and all but where does this go? The match ended within a minute when Goldberg beat Lesnar into powder and yet again I was left wondering how Vince saw any long-term positives in this?

The rest of the build to WrestleMania was all about these two and in February Goldberg both shocked and angered the wrestling multiverse when he beat Kevin Owens for the Universal Championship. This made the big rematch against Lesnar for the title and as said before, attractions shouldn’t need any belts. Now we had two attractions fighting each other for one and it felt like time went back 20 years just for the sake of it. The match happened, and Lesnar won his first Universal Championship. That pretty much puts us to today, only weeks after Lesnar’s only defense of the title since against Samoa Joe in a winning effort. Joe, a guy that has become an organic star simply because he can’t be denied was thrown to the shark as they all are and now it feels sillier than ever before with the recent news. I wonder what Vince is thinking now as he has to realize that the last 24 months or more of his company was invested in someone that had no plans to make this a priority. He gave the keys of his castle to a brute that only wanted a meal and one of his daughters. It feels so beyond insane and sadly, on par with WCW’s thinking. Thankfully for him, there are young guys that can pull the wagon once he finally invests in them but the problem is that the fans may have already given up on those names. You can only fail so much until the fans look at you as a failure completely and go elsewhere. That’s much of the issue with Roman Reigns. When he worked with someone like Lesnar who felt like they could eat him alive he thrived and did well. When he was challenged to put his working boots on by AJ Styles, he thrived. When he was tasked with working the same guy for a whole year again and again, a guy that is massive compared to him yet also is more over he failed. He failed not because he sucks but because he’s another guy Lesnar beat.

Everyone else is in the same boat. There’s your Lesnar Effect: the moment that Vince realizes that all these men that were used to make Lesnar the unstoppable god aren’t just recyclable. They have shelf lives just like they all do and that includes Lesnar. It feels so much like it did when Hogan left in 1993 because Hogan also sacrified so much of the youth for his own causes. It took that company almost 3 years to even gain profits back again and I worry this could happen again. In a climate where The Elite’s merchandise is in stores all around North America, a group that works out of Japan the clock is ticking. The whole of the wrestling world is growing while WWE feels like it is shrinking and losing luster but I’m sure Lesnar will be very concerned with that while he sits in his deer stand in Canada this fall. Good riddance, buddy. Thanks for the few years of interest that immediately died once everyone realized it was a lost cause to watch. Much like your MMA career, you came, you saw, and you fizzled the fuck out.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

#ProjectReseda: PWG's Tango and Cash Invitational Tag Team Championship Tournament, Night 1

PWG Tango & Cash Invitational Tournament for the first ever PWG Tag Team Championship

So PWG's site states this venue is in Santa Ana and I'm not sure what kind it is but it looks pretty cool. Theater seats are in the building yet it isn't full at all.

Los Luchas(Phoenix Star and Zokre) vs Chris Bosh and Quicksilver(Batman and Robin)

Bosh and Silver start us off hot by jumping their opponents from behind but LA LUCHA is strong with the luchadores tonight. This match is lucha as fuck which has come to be accepted when all four are in a match, especially with Los Luchas. Things get pretty sloppy though in spots and that comes with the risks involved with a lucha based kind of offense I feel like. Especially when it comes to young guys like these four. Bosh is totally a guy that is deceptively athletic and good in the ring. Now I can see why he was amongst the first Americans in Dragon Gate. Bosh and Silver just work like a pack of dogs on Phoenix Star to get a win  but the Phoenix is a resilient babyface that get Zokre in to take out the trash. This is a good opening round match and not much else. **

The X Foundation(Scott Lost and Joey Ryan) vs M-Dogg 20 and Babi Slymm

M-Dogg says that Jardi Frantz isn't here because while taking a munchie break at McDonald's, he hit a little girl on a pink bike. M-Dogg then says that he saw some jacked up black dude and chose him as his partner, that man is Babi Slymm! Dogg shows us his breakdancing skillz and Slymm is visibly impressed as is everyone in Santa Ana! Slymm has perhaps the coolest bandana pattern pants in wrestling history. Slymm is the biggest man so of course, Lost and Ryan have trouble putting him down until they double team. It works for a little bit, then Slymm makes them pay before M-Dogg comes in the ring. M-Dogg is quickly beaten down by Lost and Ryan because they're a WELL OILED MACHINE. M-Dogg does he usual, flippy stuff. M-Dogg does one of the shittiest top rope moves ever on Lost, landing right on his knees. Slymm isn't the best in the ring himself but I feel like a lot of that is due to him not trying all that hard. *1/2

Hardkore Kidd and Al Katraz(Castaway) vs The Havana Pitbulls(Rocky Romero and Ricky Reyes also billed in this tournament as Turner and Hooch)

Hardkore Kidd is quite annoying and his bright red dye job doesn't do him favors. SPRINGBOARD MISSLE DROPKICK BY ROMERO ON AL KATRAZ! Fuck you big, roided up fools because The Pitbulls are short but dangerous. Kidd and Katraz should be named Team Blind Barbers because both of them have awful haircuts. The Pitbulls are just all over them though with double teams and quickness as should be the case when you're badly undersized. Of course it isn't long until the bigger team takes over. Kidd botches like fucking crazy. God bless The Pitbulls for being mega workers or this would have been so awful. *

Exalibur and Jonny Storm(Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein) vs Super Dragon and Bryan Danielson(Bill and Ted's Bogus Adventure)

Ok this is fucking awesome that Excalibur and Jonny Storm tagged. Dragon continues his run of ruining fans' dreams by tearing his sign and Danielson is pretty fucking mean too. Man, this is going to be great. The crowd definitely wakes up in this one which is no surprise considering what we've seen previously. PWG godfathers Excalibur and Dragon start us off and show off some swank shit. I'm loving Danielson being influenced by Dragon and not taking ANY shit from the fans. Lovely intimidation. Danielson does everything he can to stretch the everloving shit out of Excalibur and succeeds by literally twisting him into a pretzel. Jonny Storm is really ace here also showing he was more than just flippy goodness. This is definitely a hidden gem and a match I've never heard a thing about. By no means is this like a revolutionary match or anything, just intriguing with the different styles coming together. Some will watch this and go into nit-picking mode but I'm not like that unless it is just terrible (see M-Dogg 20 vs Super Dragon from The Debut Show). One of the most ridiculous reverse rana spots live in this match and I'm still wondering how Super Dragon didn't die on that. ***1/2

The Ballard Brothers(Twins) vs Samoa Joe and Puma(Lilo and Stitch)

My God, Samoa Joe is involved so you know I'm extra intrigued. The Ballards are always dependable so we've got a good one perhaps. Puma goofs some shit up but hey, we are all humans. Joe in this era is just a whole different animal than anyone else because he would just devour people when he got on a roll. Shannon Ballard gets knocked OUT in a really scary moment and so in 2004 obviously the match ended right? Nope the ref and his tag partner drag him to the corner so he can tag out. Really crazy shit. To be fair, people tend to him really fast on the outside so I don't want it to sound like no one cared. Shane has to pull this thing out alone now but Puma and Joe are really dangerous for someone to fight alone. We see CM Punk come out as part of that brigade to check on Shannon so that's something to give him props for. Understandably, the match doesn't last long after the injury. I feel weird rating this but I also don't want to give this nothing so I'll give it *. I feel awful for all four guys because you know Puma and Joe hated that someone got hurt.

Disco Machine and Rising Son(Shanghai Knights) vs B-Boy and Homicide(Friday)

This is our first look at Rising Son who is a pretty talked about name of this era in So Cal. B-Boy and Homicide are on the same page if that page involves beating the shit out of people and doing it entertainingly. They do that in droves here. Rising Son is OK to me and that is about it. B-Boy and Cide use that ok status to basically practice their offense on. Disco is fuckin' pissed and ready on the apron wanting the hot tag. This is a means to an end really just to get us towards the second round. *1/2

Sal and Vito Thomaselli(Blues Brothers 2000) vs Sara Del Rey and Apollo Khan(48 Hours)

If you were to tell anyone in 2004 that Del Rey would be spearheading a women's wrestling change in WWE a decade later, I don't think anyone would have even been able to process that. Mainly because she is really tense as a worker because shit, she's a rookie basically here. Khan is fairly ok and the Thomasellis were pretty prevalent on the indy scene of yesteryear. Vito wrestles Sara around for us early and it is pretty good. The Thomasellis are DICKS which is great. Khan continues to look good also. Sara of course takes the heat and she takes a pretty big beating. A decent, short match. Sara takes a damn chair irish whip into a whole row of them which looks pretty cool. *1/2

Christopher Daniels and Messiah(We're No Angels) vs CM Punk and Chris Hero(City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly's Gold)

This is the epitome of a WTF match. Longtime rivals Hero and Punk tagging is just really cool to see and of course, Daniels and Messiah speaks for itself. This is actually pretty awesome aside from the novelty. Punk and Daniels go like crazy and I do believe this was around the time they were working an angle in ROH. Hero was so damn crisp even then. Hero's in his World of Sport phase here and shows off some of his findings with Messiah which is just absolutely surreal. Messiah is the weak link but not in the way some might expect he just simply isn't as good as the other three but he doesn't really fuck anything up. Hero and Punk work the arms of both opponents and I'm oddly feeling an Andersons vibe from all this limb work. This is good! Punk gets a hot tag and DELIVERS WITH THE HEAT. Messiah finally fucks up what I can only assume was a Death Valley Driver attempt but we quickly forget about that because of THE FINISH. **1/2

Adam Pearce vs Frankie Kazarian for the PWG World Title

Frankie comes from behind and takes Pearce by surprise and shit is ON. After months of build we finally get this match and bravo PWG, it's fun stuff. Kazarian creams Pyle and Pearce with a plancha to really get that babyface shine going. Kazarian for some weird reason reaches into the back pocket of Rick Knox and we see that he's packing a MAGNUM CONDOM. There was something I didn't need to know about Mr. Knox. Kazarian falls trap to the ways of the heel as many babyfaces do. I really like that these guys put it all out there and put on a real solid match. Kazarian hits a NICE piledriver giving Pearce a taste of his own medicine. Pearce pulls an indy guy move and kicks out of Kazarian's finisher because he doesn't give a fuck! Then he goes ahead and realigns Kazarian's spine with a very nasty piledriver but Kazarian will not DIE. The guys nearly die while fighting on the top turnbuckle which looks incredibly flimsy but Kazarian finds a way to make it work. The match has a really weird finish that the crowd shits on pretty hard. When you think like a booker though, it isn't a bad move to build towards a rematch and also, this weekend wasn't about them it was about the tournament. Either way, this is good stuff. ***

Overall show rating: B

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Rassle Tribune #5: A New Year, A Same Old Shit Program

New Year's Resolutions are bullshit. Anytime I've ever heard someone in passing mention some kind of ridiculous standard that they've set on themselves for a calendar year, I tended to roll my eyes in disgust. To me, the numerical value that a year represents has nothing to do with changing your life in any considerable way. If you can't tangibly reason to yourself why you should do or be something that you honestly aren't. The reason all these resolutions fail is because people put unreasonable and unrealistic guidelines on their lives in hopes that for one year they'll change themselves and pull themselves out of whatever gutter they've landed in this particular time. So that's mainly why I never bought into the hype BUT! Here I sit, in my bedroom in a weary haze on the first day of the first month of the new year thinking to myself: you should use this resolution bullshit to write more. Now usually I at least attempt to lie to myself about my ulterior motives, but I can't possibly do that to you or myself on this one. It's so painfully obvious that I'm a flaky fool when it comes to transcribing my thoughts and reviews on this damned white screen that mocks me all too often with its vengeful arrogance in the face of complete static nothingness. In that nothingness I finally realized why resolutions CAN work. If you do make your said New Year's Resolution something that does align with yourself as a being, and in a way something you know you've been avoiding for far too long. I love writing. I love the feeling writing gives me when I finally sit my keyboard down and sigh in relief from the barrage of words and errors that stream through my head when this whole writing thing happens. However I always want to make excuses for putting it off. Why? Maybe I'll never truly know. Maybe it is the years of depression that I've been lying to myself about since the age of 13 and masked it all with substances and bullshit rhetoric about macho stuff I'll never have the guts to do. That's really who we are and what we are after all, the charred remains of all the horrible forest fires one goes through as they grow up in various forms and fashions. In that vain, I've decided to not to write in the hopes that I'll fulfill some ridiculous resolution, but to complete myself for once. Perhaps writing about this sport(SPORT!) that I've loved since I can recall anything can help me along this trek we all are burdened with towards finding peace and purpose.

WWE Survivor Series 2016
The build towards this big event was totally ridiculous all too often. I may be in the minority on this belief but for me, the idea that a brand extension just three months old would be compromised with a big inter promotional card that would expose the weaknesses of both brands. Just as I expected, this was mostly the case. This was very clear in both the women's and tag elimination matches in my view, really showcasing that RAW has the absolute upper hand when it comes to those divisions at this moment in time. I loved the “singles” elimination match because it told a story. It was as if WWE took a page out of the doldrums 2007-onward TNA playbook with the odd couple teams. Granted, such an inter promotional theme forces that kind of thing and WWE did well in making that a big angle in all matches especially in the marquee elimination match.

WWE TLC 2016

This is such a bizarre show for many reasons. It, much like the Clash of Champions show, is the victim of way too many shows in way too short of a time span. Luckily for Team Blue, they've got a whole lot more going for it creatively than RAW does for the most part. Granted, I don't really see any potential in an ongoing issue between James Ellsworth and Styles but when you see the RAW Champion being Chris Jericho's second-fiddler it isn't that hard to figure out that SmackDown has a lot more going for it. Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss have been phenomenal in making their tables match feel important. Randy Orton as a vessel of The Wyatt Family has also been quite great to watch. Having four announcers is a mess for the product on Tuesdays but that's the usual WWE “against-the-grain” thinking that consistently paints them in corners.

Heath Slater and Rhyno(c) vs Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
To think that I'd be excited for the alliance of Wyatt and Orton when this year started is just absurd. These two guys are such stark contrasts of each other, yet together along with Luke Harper it feels interesting and different. Of course, Orton will surely go rouge but hey, maybe it'll lead to Bray truly getting a shove. Slater and Rhyno have definitely jumped the shark as an act and it was super clear when the fans seemed to completely give no fucks about them going to the ring.

Rhyno and Bray start the match with an odd visual. Bray overwhelms the old timer and in comes Orton to stomp the shit out of him for good measure. Orton is so awesome. Slater is pretty damn awesome also, especially as the plucky underdog. Slater gets the dogshit beat out of him by both opponents, is cut off from Rhyno like SMART TAG LOGIC DICTATES, and Slater is forced into desperation. Slater gets a glimmer of hope but as is the case these days, The Wyatt Family snuffed it out like a cruel tyrant. This was your standard, good tag match with strong logic in the outline of the match. Harper played sacrificial lamb which led right into the finish and we have new champs! This is notable as Bray Wyatt's first ever WWE main title. Big stuff. ***

There was a stupid Ambrose promo about Ellsworth “keeping his chin up” and selling it poorly. How did WWE manage to take a great promo guy and make him this fucking bad? This is like WCW with Lance Storm level ineptitude. I appreciate Ambrose as a worker and dude but Christ, this writing for him is murder. What is WWE's obsession with making all their new top guys look like total goofs?

This is followed by….ANOTHER PROMO WOW. It's AJ this time and it is a much better promo early on. AJ puts over Dean as resilient but that tonight, resilience isn't going to be a factor because he'll wreck him with the plunder! Could WWE finally get it with AJ as a serious champion? Probably not.

Nikki Bella vs Carmella, No DQ
This feud is drawn out and terrible. I don't understand how WWE expects anyone to give two shits about these two? We get the video package outlining why we should care, and it just proves that this is indeed drawn out for three fucking MONTHS. Try to imagine two blow-up dolls having a fake fight and it will be close to how this thing went. 0

The Miz(c) vs Dolph Ziggler in a Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship
While this feud has gone on for wayyyy too long, these two have great chemistry so their matches are always fun to watch. Miz has been on a whole different level this year, and mostly it has been in the last 6 months or so. Dolph has been on and off, much like he's been his whole career. The real story here is between Miz and Daniel Bryan, who has served as the perfect foil for the cocky Miz as the do-gooder authority figure.

It is so intriguing when WWE takes something that has little life in it for various reasons and manages to squeeze something special out of it. This felt very important at the start, with Miz and Dolph both gazing up at the belt before going into violent fury. Lots of your standard back and forth spots were the beginnings of this one, but the aura of danger helped things. Miz gets tossed into ladders all around the place and things look like they're totally in Dolph's favor. Miz takes advantage of Dolph's stupidity and stalling to drive a ladder deep into his torso, but even Miz himself falls victim to over zealousness. Miz nearly gets his brains splattered between the rungs of a ladder, yet Dolph is cut off and takes a drop toe hold into the ladder face first. Awesome. That word describes this match fairly well I'd say. These guys didn't try to innovate how ladder matches are done or anything, they used timeless tropes from the past involving this stipulation and played on them in a good way. This is proof that sometimes doing the obvious stuff is best, not everyone should be trying the kind of shit that The Young Bucks do and there's reason: they have that market cornered. These guys were entertaining, believable enough, and simply GOOD. I really loved the title attempts and they had good drama to them. Dolph is so great at making you believe he is going to get that belt after all and Miz is happy to toss him far to the canvas. Miz does his taunting dropkick into the corner that is only meant for Bryan but I must say Miz's dropkick is pretty strong these days. It's amazing how Dolph's knee seems to get caught in a trap every time he wrestles Miz. It's like this shit is rigged. Miz kills his knee using a ladder because why not. FIGURE FOUR USING A LADDER. Perhaps they DID do some innovation after all. Dolph tries to persevere but he eats a ladder thanks to a Skull Crushing Finale. Miz gets his hands on the structure holding his title and Dolph moves the ladder, leaving Miz hanging free! He finally takes quite a nasty bump and rolls to the floor as if he took a bullet. From there on out it is simply a sprint to the finish and both men were on their game. ***3/4

Kalisto vs Baron Corbin in a Chairs Match
Total shit build. The crowd couldn't have cared any less for either guy going into this one but I have to say they did the best they could with quite a weak gimmick match to use. Kalisto did his usual, awesome spots and Baron played King Kong so it wasn't awful. If Kalisto were on the indies, he'd be having barnburners with Ospreay somewhere but alas we get him in a fucking stupid feud with Corbin. Such is the wrestling business. Corbin did one of the god awful worst hanging spots with Kalisto wherein he just gently tossed him around, ending the sequence with an uninspired toss into a row of chairs. Believe me it was much less dangerous than it sounds. Kalisto did a really awesome hurricanrana press ala Rey Mysterio and it wasn't the finish and at this point I was done with this shit. ** merely because of Kalisto being so great.

Becky Lynch(c) vs Alexa Bliss in a Tables Match for the SmackDown Women's Championship
These two ladies can GO! They show highlights of their match in Glasgow, complete with the controversial finish. Wow, you give someone an out and suddenly the rematch means something. Sounds like the old days. They show the contract signing and I won't lie I marked out. I really love these two ladies and I'm hoping this will deliver the way that I think it could.

These women just get to fighting like hell. That's what I like in 'rasslin. They fight around until finally Becky gets a table set up after way too long in a very funny moment. They tease a suplex to the floor but Alexa cuts Becky off and they work Becky falling into the table but she escapes danger! Great work. Becky continues to get caught in traps that Alexa sets, getting frustrated and countered easily by the cool-headed and nefarious Bliss. When it comes to setting up tables, the ladies seem to have issues but then again this isn't exactly common knowledge on how to seamlessly do table spots. We get a Queen of the Mountain spot up on the top with Becky teasing for the superplex finish but Alexa is too scrappy! Becky falls and dishevels the table as we start back from the beginning. Alexa's flipping knees combo is so awesome. More table awkwardness as Alexa tries to get the win but Becky takes advantage of the time waste. Alexa wisely flips the table away once she was in danger and then drove Becky head first into the back of the table with a DDT! That looks really nasty landing on the undercarriage of the table. The crowd really came up for that one naturally. Becky manages to lock on the Dis Arm Her submission THROUGH ONE OF THE TABLE LEGS! Awesome but the ref can't call a submission! Beautiful work and a bit of a call back to the Glasgow match. Becky hits a really sloppy uranage slam and damn these ladies look worn down. Alexa is set up on the bottom rope on a table but she fights her way up to her feet and throws Becky to the canvas with an Iconoclasm! Awesome stuff and Becky is all kinds of fucked up now. Alexa isn't done with her though and it nearly costs her dearly when she's given a drop toe hold face first into the table but it luckily doesn't break. The battle spills out to the apron and both women fight like hell. Alexa drops to the floor, Becky tries for a kick to the face and is caught with a powerbomb through the table on the floor for the win! Really good match and I'm excited about this division again! ***3/4

After the match, Becky is extremely mad about everything and we get the hint of an attitude change.

AJ Styles(c) vs Dean Ambrose in a TLC Match for the WWE World Championship
I've been one of the more vocal people about this latest James Ellsworth tie-in with this feud but they've made it work. Ellsworth has gone from a total goon to a really good pawn in the game between Ambrose and Styles. There's nothing better in 2016 than seeing AJ whip Ellsworth's ass like crazy and Ellsworth selling like a goof. Ambrose has kind of lost his luster though and his wacky bullshit promos aren't helping. This match has to be the kind of match that makes people remember how great Ambrose as a WRESTLER is. If not, I wonder where his future lies as a big time player.

I'm so happy that AJ has gotten as over as he is. His entrance brought Dallas UP! It was a great thing. These guys do have a very good chemistry and their matches are generally fantastic. Now they have all the plunder imaginable so THIS SHOULD BE FUUUUN! The match begins with wild brawling, Ambrose going nuts on AJ more than the reverse. Then we get a battle to climb the ladder for a spell to put over what this is supposed to be about, and then Ambrose shows us that he's about hurtin' AJ badly by tossing a ladder at his face. AJ proceeds to get murdered until Ambrose looks to climb a massive ladder and crush him through a table but AJ wisely walks away. Ambrose chases and resumes the beating. Things move back to ringside and Ambrose tries for a move off the barricade but is caught in mid air with a dropkick on the floor! Beautiful stuff. This leads to AJ running the show in this match for a while. As always however, the cocky heel gets caught being over-zealous and Ambrose nuts him on the barricade and slams a chair into the face of AJ! This is quite the pinball match; it is a back and forth spot war and you have little time to register what has happened last. It is much like a wild, final boss fight in some video game where it doesn't matter how you beat them, JUST BEAT THEM! In other words, it was great to watch but lacked a ton of psychology per se. Ambrose throws a ladder from the ring at AJ's face and I lose my mind! These men hate themselves but I love watching their hatred! AJ responds with a chair shot to the back like a total dick. Eye for an eye. Backbreaker onto a chair by AJ now. Ambrose now begins to slowly fight up from underneath, first by simply grimacing and trying to psyche up and it crescendos from there. AJ then sets up chairs facing each other and is given a suplex slam through the chairs by Ambrose! AJ recovers and throws Ambrose into the corner and throw a table with a suplex! Ambrose gets to his feet and puts together a strong comeback complete with a rebound clothesline! Ambrose teases a superplex to the floor but is thwarted with counters. We get back and forth countering until AJ is shit canned over the top to the floor with a back body drop. Ambrose unleashes a GREAT elbow suicida and AJ goes face first into an announce table. Ambrose wants to kill the announce tables and starts throwing shit around. AJ is down prone on a table while Ambrose sets a ladder up ONTO ANOTHER ANNOUNCE TABLE and goes for broke with an elbow drop! Awesome stuff here. Ambrose uses this chance to go for the title and takes enough time to allow AJ to recover and hit a Phenomenal Forearm to bring him down! After this, we get anther race to the belt with both men on a ladder fighting for the gold. The fight falls down to the canvas and both men tease their finishers until Ambrose blocks a Styles Clash with a wild, spinning throw that sends AJ careening into the ladder sickeningly! What a fucking bump. Ambrose slowly crawls up to the gold and AJ grasps his leg desperately until he has him in a powerbomb but finds himself taken over the top with a hurricanrana. Ambrose looks like he tries to skin the cat and fails which was so funny. AJ responds by beating him up and going to the ropes himself. ASAI MOONSAULT REVERSE DDT BY AJ ON THE FLOOR! This man is unparalleled. AJ drags a table into the fray and things seem to be ugly for Ambrose. AJ gets him on the table prone and seems to get a rush of energy, rushing into the ring and hitting a PSYCHOTIC springboard 450 through the table to the floor! Jesus Christ. AJ rolls back into the ring to try for his title belt but we see Ellsworth making his way to the ring. AJ gets distracted and seems to be waiting to murder this little goof. AJ takes no chances and beats the everloving fuck out of him before setting him up for something sinister on the steps. Ambrose levels him with a clothesline and Dirty Deeds on the steps! Ambrose sells his opportunity and makes his slow ascent up to the title. The fans begin to buzz and we see that AJ is on the other side of the ladder making his way up to the title himself. Yet again we have a dog fight on the top and AJ is sent all the way to the floor with a right hand! Ambrose has the title won...AND ELLSWORTH SENDS HIM CRASHING TO THE FLOOR THROUGH TWO TABLES! Dallas loses their shit and Ellsworth signals for AJ to get the win! This is how you progress a storyline, great job SmackDown and more important AJ and Dean. Great match! ****

WWE Roadblock: End of the Line 2016

In the spirit of my newly turned leaf of refusing to write about every waking moment in this fucking whirlwind of a business, I'll be giving my thoughts on only a few of the matches on this card. Forget that pointless shit that Enzo and Rusev are doing, and while the huge news of New Day losing their tag titles is relevant the match wasn't, and that Cruiserweight title match was more of the same with a fantastic ending when Neville went to the darkside while leaving Perkins and champion Swann down like bitches. ALL HAIL THE NEW KING OF CRUISERWEIGHTS!

Sasha Banks(c) vs Charlotte in an Iron Man Match for the RAW Women's Title
This was a very basic match and that's not a bad thing to say. Lots of their usual fair early with back and forth escapes. Finally, as is seemingly the case in all their matches Charlotte out-muscled the smaller Sasha putting her in peril. Then Sasha decided to give Charlotte a goddamn Meteora on the floor. That will never stop making me cringe. Sasha stretches Charlotte in a modified Bank Statement but she won't give. Great crowd reactions during this hold. For the first ten minutes, it was a pretty paint-by-numbers kind of affair but a wild suicida by Sasha at around 19:55 kicked things into a new gear for me. Lots of joshi screaming, and lots of fucking horrendous bumps by Sasha. That woman is fantastic but I worry about her spinal column way too much. Charlotte is really great at playing that evil bitch role and has developed leaps and bounds. These two working together almost exclusively may not be the best thing for business in terms of the storm term vision, but for making them as great as they can be it has done exponential growth. The heat segment in this was very long and the crowd felt pretty flat for the majority of it. Charlotte slaps on a figure four headscissors and slams Sasha around like nothing, screaming about becoming a four time champion and I was loving it! Sasha tried for a flash pin but failed and this lit a spark in her to begin going for broke a bit. There's a bizarre neckbreaker from the corner that leads to a flat near-fall. Sasha fights up and we go into a comeback sequence. Meteora in the corner to a seated Charlotte! Sasha fails at a crossbody and Charlotte finds Natural Selection but it isn't enough! I like how they didn't just do a million falls for the hell of it, making this feel much more important when false finishes came into play. Awesome Diamond Dust inspired Natural Selection for the first fall! The crowd still isn't into it though and that's very disconcerting. Charlotte talks insane shit, saying things like: “iron meets iron right?” Unreal. Sasha is a fighter though and this annoys Charlotte to no end as always. Banks goes into a really odd looking roll up to even things up! Miraculously the crowd finally gets going after that. That roll up acts like the start of a hope spot that ends with one of Charlotte's big boots for a near fall. Charlotte's facials are absolutely great here, as she looks totally insane with panic over the idea of losing this rematch. It's just a shame that the crowd wasn't into this as much as they've been in the past and in my mind that has so much to do with the creative team. Big moonsault by Charlotte fails and Sasha locks in the Bank Statement! Sasha rolls her back into the middle and the crowd erupts as Charlotte taps out! 2-1 now for Sasha. At about 5:15 is finally when Pittsburgh gives a fuck about this whole thing and they are HOT. Both women trade slaps and chops, and Charlotte then clips Sasha's knee in the ropes causing a nasty bump. This of course leads to leg work by Charlotte to soften up the Figure 8. Sasha won't let that happen though and she throws a shot when need be. Sasha gets Charlotte in a cradle off of a toe hold but it can't get a fall. Charlotte then just keeps up that leg work that was started long ago as only 2 minutes remain. Charlotte puts on her dad's Figure Four and Sasha finally rolls into a reversal only for a moment and Charlotte finds herself back in control. Slaps are exchanged as Sasha fights to keep position as the time ticks down to well under one minute. Now 15 seconds and counting! Pittsburg rises as they believe that Sasha will do it...and she taps with 2 seconds remaining leaving us at a tie 2-2. That pretty well murdered the momentum they built and Charlotte starts screaming for overtime. The ref indeed tells Jojo that there will be a sudden death overtime, one fall to a finish! Pittsburgh marks out and so do I. Sasha struggles up to her feet and Charlotte dropkicks the bad knee haha! Great. Bell rings and immediately we get a battle for the Figure 8 but Sasha nearly wins with a roll up! Big suplex leaves Sasha fucked. Another small package by Sasha gets another near fall and Charlotte gets more incensed. Suddenly Sasha starts bleeding and I mean BLEEDING a lot. Her nose seems to have been busted but she fights on, locking on a Bank Statement! Charlotte begins torquing Sasha's bad knee though and somehow she reverses things into a really sloppy Figure Four. Great stuff I say! Sasha, bleeding like a stuck hog begins to reach desperately for the rope break but Charlotte drags her further away into the Figure 8 now! Sasha taps out and the crowd totally dies. Way to book something to death, WWE. Despite the really stupid hot-shoting that's gone on with this title, this was a great match. ****

Kevin Owens(c) vs Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship
Talk about shit booking this match had it. For one, this match should have had Roman as the heel and Owens as the face because Pittsburgh fucking HATED Roman and really just about any crowd does these days. Owens meanwhile is a fantastic wrestler that's been booked horribly as the top guy on RAW since winning the new Universal title. He's felt like a total second-fiddle to this resurgence that Chris Jericho is having as a lovable goof. Most of this show had segments with Owens trying to win over his jilted friend Jericho so he can help him keep the belt. A once intense and confident fighter is now looking like some scared puppy lost in the streets. That's not how a top champion should be. Hell even the World Champion over on SmackDown looks like a goof these days. What is with this new obsession Vince has with booking weak champions? Bizarre.

The match itself was very good. Owens continued his run of starting matches running away which is so great as a heel, but with the horrible booking he's had it doesn't really do him favors. The crowd at least seems to get with it as Roman finally goes out and meets him with right hands and assorted brawling. More Owens stalling and more Roman brawling. Much of the same stuff we see from them all the time. Owens uses a headlock on Roman to get things going and finds himself slammed out of it for a two count. Repeated clotheslines in the corner by Roman until Owens rolls back outside just to be slung into the barricade. Roman then begins to clear the German announce table to be sacrificed by Owens cuts him off and they find themselves back in the ring. Owens gives the heat for a bit until Roman drills him with clotheslines. Owens when all seems lost keeps rolling to the floor in a great bit of strategy, this time having it pay off when he drives Roman throat first into the barricade before slinging him into the steps. Back senton off the steps onto Roman on the floor! That looked rough. Owens can't get the win though and he's got to find increasingly more dangerous ways to put down Roman. Owens slaps on a side headlock and talks shit, even going as far as questioning Roman on why his US title wasn't part of the match. This man is great. Owens turns the headlock into a neckbreaker, and then a flipping leg drop! Shades of his CZW days there but it is only good for a near fall. Owens falls back into the headlock as the anchor of this match and for me I felt it worked well. Owens fails on another back senton though, leaving the door open for Roman's comeback. Roman's comeback isn't long until we get some back and forth striking. German suplex by Owens! That sets up for Owens' cannonball senton but Roman counters with a side kick into the samoan drop for a near fall. It's a shame that Roman isn't more over because he's a great talent. Roman misses a Superman punch and gets drilled with a DDT for a near fall! Owens finally hits the cannonball but Roman no sells and hits a Superman punch for a near fall. Fucking dumb. The crowd even died when he did it. Well if you subtract the large “Roman Sucks” chant that this engendered. Roman of course beats up Owens more, throwing him up on the top turnbuckle but Owens is wise to it, reversing it with elbow strikes but another Superman punch leaves him loopy. Owens no-sells though and nails his always-impressive fisherman's buster from the second rope for a near fall. Owens measures Roman up and goes to the top rope and goes for a swanton but Roman's knees were up. Owens rolls to the floor yet again but Roman hits the Drive-By dropkick along the apron. Owens again rolls away and Roman is suckered into trying another Drive-By which Owens avoids and he nails two superkicks in a row on him. Roman lays prone on the German announce table and Owens hits a frog splash but the table remains so what does Owens do? HIT ANOTHER ONE! SO funny. Roman narrowly misses the count out and Owens hits a frog splash in the ring now for a near fall! Owens tries for another superkick but Roman reverses with a deadlift powerbomb for another near fall. Roman measures Owens up but his spear is met with a knee and a Pop-Up Powerbomb but Roman barely gets a rope break to survive. What an odd move for a babyface you think? I swear WWE is run by Vince Russo sometimes. Then again Russo wouldn't do that, he'd have had Roman escape the pin with a blood bath or something. Owens again goes to the floor and this time he gets his title belt and looks to hit Roman with it but he's nailed with a Spear instead! Both men sell until Jericho finally hits the ring! Owens gets to his feet and eats a Codebreaker! The bells rings and it is announced that Owens wins by DQ. Lance Storm on his Killing the Town podcast with Cyrus commented that he didn't get the rationale of this and lobbied for the finish to be considered a no contest instead. I get his point but in WWE, they've done this same bullshit for so long that I feel that this argument is moot. Jericho smirks, hands Owens his title and they celebrate. ***3/4 despite the dog and pony show finish.

After the match, Rollins comes from the back to even the odds. Owens and Jericho back up to ringside and Owens eats a Spear. Rollins nails Jericho with the Pedigree. Rollins and Reigns tease for a while until they rolls out and clear the Spanish announce table for destruction, obvious shades of The Shield. Roman audible stammers “time to break furniture” into the camera before driving Jericho through the table with Rollins' assist. The focus then turns to Owens who is visibly running to the back with his title but Rollins grabs him as both “heroes” beat on the champion. The action spills over to the English announce table by the stage WCW style. Roman clears the table and now Owens is sent crashing through the table.

Impact Wrestling: Total Nonstop Deletion 12-15-2016

This Broken Matt stuff that TNA has been doing this year has been equal parts bizarre and phenomenal. I think there's not nearly enough credit being given to all involved for how totally out of the box it all has been and while I understand some of the more purist fans hating it I feel that they need to remember that everything has to evolve. It isn't like we're doing the same kind of things in the ring that Strangler Lewis did, or even Hulk Hogan for that matter. For every ECW there's going to be a Global Force (sorry Jeff) or a GWF from back in the early 90's. Chances have to be taken so that evolution in an otherwise stagnant business can occur.

Things start with a “Broken Fake News” segment about a volcanic eruption in Cameron. Itchweeed is interviewed about the insanity and he says he's gotta weed eat before the shit is on. Wacky and wonderful.

Finally we get the proper introduction from Josh Mathews about this whole show emanating from “Camp Hardy” in Cameron. And indeed, we see that there's a fucking CROWD IN HIS REAL BARN with an Impact ring set up. Fucking awesome. Brother Nero and Matt come down to ringside for a promo with Senor Benjamin. The lighting for this thing is horrible but I like that. It makes it feel truly scummy. Matt talks about his usual insanity, and how Cameron is shut down for this massacre tonight. Matt says tonight will be the coming out party for the Broken Universe and that includes King Maxell's IN RING DEBUT? Oh god. Rockstar Spud interrupts the promo and he looks so freaked out by everything. Gold. We then discover that Jeremy Borash is on commentary tonight and I'm very happy. Spud is told he's worthy of deletion and Spud says no one will be deleted! Spud says he's sick of the whole Broken Universe and especially Matt's “greenhorn” son for taking his TV time. I popped huge on that. Spud then admits on national TV that he's less over that Maxell and then says he'll stretch him! This is beautiful shit. Matt then says the match is on! Spud then says he'll “carry him through it, make him look good, and like all other promoters you can push him when I'm gone”. Wow, TNA totally gives no shits about kayfabe eh? That's when Matt says this match now will be No DQ! Maxel rides a goddamn toy car to the ring and gets a HUGE CHANT! This is amazing. Maxel is in the ring and Spud is immediately tased for the Maxel win! It's incredibly edited but still hilarious. Then Disco Inferno is seen watching in the back saying: “thank god it wasn't me this time, hey anyone want to play some poker?” TNA is SLAYING.

Lashley is shown arriving to the house and looking totally disturbed. Then we see Eddie Edwards, the WORLD FUCKING CHAMPION walking out of the woods like a total jabroni. What in the fuck?

More fake news about roads being closed because of this “Tag Team Apocalypto” match tonight. Shane Helms drives up with Andrew Everett and Trevor Lee in the back of his truck. The woman says there's a natural disaster ahead, which prompts Helms to claim he's an expert at that. Oh lord.

The fucking ROCK N' ROLL EXPRESS is walking up to the front door and Matt answers. This is fucking awesome. Ricky Morton says he's here to prove he's the best tag team ever and he wants to be in the Apocalypto. Matt invites them in the house and Ricky says he'll take a beer, then says that “God loves crazy people, he made lots of us”. Bravo sir.

The show cuts to Sienna in the ring, talking about how she wants Rosemary in the ring but we are told she's permanently banned for trying to kidnap the King. Well shit. Sienna then says she'll put up her number one contender's spot against anyone. Vanguard 1 then comes out and we're told he took the challenge? What in the fuck. Finally the ref of all people says he's not even...he let alone a she so fuck off. Vanguard actually DOES and then Sienna says she wants any PERSON to come out. ODB is then shown coming out of her trailer to accept the challenge. Is this 2008? Either way here we go.

ODB vs Sienna
This isn't particularly good or even awful. It's just your standard indy women's match. ODB isn't very good at all and while Sienna is pretty good this just felt horribly flat. Vanguard tries to be the ref and the ref rolls him out as Sienna takes control and the ref counts out ODB. Dumb. *

Helms has his Dynasty in the back with Matt. Helms says he wants his men in the tag match and Matt calls for his scribe, who is actually the PWX announcer from North Carolina. He says someone will be going into the Lake of Reincarnation and it will be appaling. Lee asks what a scribe is like a dork and that's it.

Itchweeed rolls out in a riding mower and what in the fuck am I watching? I feel like all this crazy Hardy shit is all the drug hallucinations they had a few years ago.

Itchweeed vs Chet Sterling
This is a squash with Jeff acting like a crackhead. Really there's nothing more to say about this. Itchweeed manages to fall asleep while putting on a sleeper himself. This takes the cake for dumbest shit in a wrestling ring for me. A table is set up on the floor and Sterling is driven through it with an elbow from the apron. Itchweeed hits a simple elbow and wins. 0 Anythings

Eddie Edwards(c) vs Lashley for the TNA World Championship
This is a rematch from when Eddie won the title. Apparently this is the third match of theirs and both times before Eddie won clean with his finish. That doesn't bode well for the champion.

Lashley beats him up early. Eddie catches him sleeping though for a spell until he's driven down with a cross body of sorts. Lashley sends Eddie sailing under the ropes to the floor in a very nasty fashion but Eddie regroups enough to throw some mean chops before taking a clothesline. Lashley suddenly slings a “fans” down in the crowd and the commentators make a point to remind us that everyone in the building signed waivers. As if that would really mean shit if this was a shoot. Either way, Eddie takes control of the madness. Again however, Lashley brings him down with a clothesline and we're back to square one. Lashley takes a while beating up Eddie in the corner. Eddie then counters things with a Blue Thunder Bomb! Manhattan drop leaves Lashley hurting yet Eddie is countered into snake eyes in the corner. Lashley elects to work on Eddie's arm with an armbar but Eddie wills himself up. Eddie throws a missile dropkick on Lashley from the top! Lashley rushes Eddie and is sent to the floor before being nailed with a suicide dive by Eddie. Eddie hits a shining wizard for only a near fall. Double stomp fails and Lashley lifts him up in a Dominator for a near fall. Lashley plays Roman Reigns and measures him for the Spear but is sent into the corner. Back elbow is countered with an enzugiri on Lashley sitting up top and he spills out to the floor. Eddie goes for a hurricanrana and he's tossed into almost all the “fans” in the crowd. That was a very weird visual regardless that the commentators don't even sell like it's a big deal. Both men now fight all over the building. Lashley Spears Edwards through a wall into the woods! Sweet spot….that apparently just ends the match? Jesus christ this is some dumb shit. **

Tag Team Apocalypto for the TNA Tag Team Championship
The Broken Hardys(c) vs The Helms Dynasty vs The Rock N' Roll Express vs Decay
We get a horribly cheesy vignette about how the fans have to evacuate because of random smoke….yet the match still can go on? So what this says is that TNA gives more of a care about their fans than they do their wrestlers. Suddenly we see Eddie and Lashley fighting, and then a cut to the Hardys and Rock N' Roll shooting fireworks at the heels. The Helms boys get their truck but Matt jumps in the back with Lee and slams his head around like a bastard. Nero says to the ref they have to get up to them and amazingly there is a dirt bike there to ride. This is B-movie horror meets wrestling, so you decide if you love that or hate it. I feel rather mixed myself. Then we see the gates to the compound where tons of random “tag teams” are waiting, visible up front is John Skyler and Corey Hollis from PWX! Good on those guys for getting a cameo even if it means they got killed by Decay...literally. Basically Decay starts killing the jobbers at the gate and then we see Spud, then we see The Bravado Brothers! They're in suits talking about how they['re world famous. Man this is great. The Hardys and Helms Dynasty fight in front of an obviously fake store front. The ugly Ducklings of PWX fame come in also and get killed. A train drives by the Hardys and Helms brawling...who knows why. The Bravados finally sneak around Decay and into the compound. More death from Decay on jobbers, complete with Abyss bashing someone's head with a rock. Someone's been watching Lucha Underground. Spud says his partner is here and he's huge, and out comes fucking 'Swoggle. Hilarious. Lee and Everett look to get the win but Hardy somehow summons his BOAT to interfere for him. Helms Dynasty beats up the boat...this is real. Nero fires up and beats up both of Helms' guys leaving Matt and Shane alone. Matt then throws him into the Lake of Reincarnation. Shane comes out and the Helms Dynasty becomes 3 Count! Holy 2000! Helms says they aren't Shannon and Evan, they're better and this leads to Helms getting double superkicked by his men and falls back into the lake. Another random ring is set up by the “volcano” and we get Hardys vs Rock N' Roll! Basic 80's tag stuff ensues with double irish whips into one another and such. Good old school schtick man. For old dudes they didn't look bad either. More Lashley and Eddie brawling. Bravados keep fighting the Helms guys and they stumble upon a ref shitting in a portapotty. Standing moonsault on the ground by Everett like a moron. Lee is sent face first with a catapult into the building. Lee and Everett rush inside but the Bravados are locked out and the ref says they'll be DQ'd if they don't open. The arena is totally smoked out but the heels take control! Morton and Nero are in skylifts suddenly and we're told it is Night of the Skywalkers. They lock up IN THE AIR! Ok, now this is awesome. Morton and Nero work being immobile in skylifts greatly while Matt and Robert do normal shit in the ring. Morton bites Nero's fingers before dragging him over his lift! Matt then rolls out and sends Morton higher up and says he's stuck up there. Morton looks legit pissed, GREAT. We go back to Bravados vs Helms guys. They do good indy stuff in the empty arena. Nero does a wild Swanton off his lift but Robert moves! Matt still nails Twist of Fate and beats Robert while Morton is still high in his lift. Spud and 'Swoggle are in the empty arena and are looking to sneak up. 'Swoggle grabs a chair nails the Bravados in the backwhile Spud gets the pin. 'Swoggle quickly turns on his partner and hits a frog splash before leaving Spud to be pinned himself. More random Lashley and Eddie brawling that looks lackluster. Morton is shown again and randomly we see Road Warrior Animal laughing at him. Decay is shown again at the gates and we see DCC show up with tons of back up. Decay levels all the jabronis and Storm finally shows his face and the random guy with a truck from the first video shows up to be jobbed out. Storm gets pissed and walks out. Wow. Random fighting with random guys at the top of the “volcano” and a huge explosion happens. Hurricane Helms comes from the Lake of Reincarnation with some obvious superpowers. Jesus what is this stuff? Decay and the Helms boys finds where the Hardys are and the beatdown begins. Decay focus on Nero and Matt is cornered by Lee and Everett. Nero eats a chokeslam in the ring by Abyss, who then grabs Janice the barbed wire board. Nero comes from behind with a fireworks cannon but gets low blowed by Crazzy Steve before he can light it. He gets beat up but Abyss is shot at by Vanguard 1 with fireworks! Abyss shoots back with some of his own. Hurricane saves Matt when Lee and Everett go to to bury Matt. Matt takes the pin and a grave is made for Lee and Everett apparently. Matt then says that “even a man with triple H's in his name could appreciate how we buried this young, up-and-coming talent” FUCKING GREAT. Lashley makes 'Swoggle look useless and eats a crossbody by Eddie from a balcony. A massive Hardy symbol then lights on fire around Decay and Nero as they fight inside. This is a really wild visual to say the least. How did someone not die here? Matt joins the fray. All men involved manage to get out of the maze of fire and Abyss tries to takes out Matt in the ring with Janice. Matt takes Janice the board and drives it into Abyss' stomach. Steve and Nero fight up on the “volcano” and Steve is gives a Twist of Fate and falls into the “volcano” and is shown being shot into the ring magically uninjured. Interesting and that's it apparently as the Broken Universe goes wild! As a spectacle this is world class, as a match I couldn't begin to rate it. At the end, Reby announces she's pregnant again. Well congrats Hardy clan! You're doing some wild things.

Chris Hero vs Dick Togo, EVOLVE 74, 12-10-2016

Togo is a god. Hero is a god. This means this was a war. Hero immediately starts us off with a claim that he's the best of all time just to let us all know he's the prick here. New York responds by popping for him of course. There's a lovely chain sequence that ends when Hero picks up Togo and simply sits him on the top turnbuckle. This leads to a stupid chant. More good grappling with Hero getting a cravat until Togo takes him down with a heel pick and starts giving him hurts with a headlock. I love the simplicity early on, it's just a simple grappling battle between two of the tops in the game in the past 30 years. Hero utilizes an inverted ankle lock like a MASTER really getting reactions from the sick angles he put Togo's foot in. Togo powers on though and just will not be stopped. Hero tries to sucker-kick Togo off a shoulder block spot but Togo is wise to it and makes him pay for a bit until he finds himself eating sole. Hero uses this opening to crush the poor, smaller man with a back senton like a REAL MEAN DUDE. Hero shakes his head in disgust at the idiots in the crowd in New York trying to be real cute. Hero and Togo take the fun to the floor and we get some SICK shots out of it. This was very much Hero playing the vicious man obsessed with beating the legend by any means necessary and it came across perfectly. Hero tried for his piledriver and Togo was smart to it early on, which lent itself down the road. Togo unleashes a GREAT dropkick in this one as well. Togo masterfully uses Hero's own momentum against him and finds himself locking on a crossface which led to a shift in the match and a NASTY baseball slide dropkick followed by a rolling senton to the floor! Togo is a mad man for his age. Togo's efforts were met with a really insane rolling elbow following other wild strikes by the guru Hero. Togo then was drilled on his head with a Hero piledriver after being weakened and broken by strikes. Beautiful storytelling there. However it wasn't enough to get the win. Togo flashes up with some pin attempts, eats another piledriver, and yet he still pops up to hit a seated missile dropkick! Hero though is too tough for Togo it seems and he's back to his feet the second Togo's up to the top. Hero teases a second-rope piledriver but Togo fights back to hit a beautiful tornado DDT from the second! Hero survives though and on we go towards the really awesome finishing stretch. Seek this out. It even has a Pedigree kick out at one spot, so why waste any more time?! ****

EVOLVE 75 12-11-2016
Jeff Cobb vs Fred Yehi

This is a beautiful mat exhibition above all else. These two start us off with a sequence right out of your latest NCAA national wrestling meet with amazing switches and reverses seeing Yehi put over like an equal to Cobb's Olympic acumen. Cobb takes his back though and rolls him on his shoulders yet a rope break keeps things alive. This was very shoot-style and fans of the BattlArts style will love this match. Yehi rides Cobb's back for some time while he tries to put some hooks in for a Rear Naked Choke or something but Cobb stands up with him and tries to pull Yehi's arm off. Innovative defense. Yehi has quite the scowl I must say. He also has a pretty swank guillotine choke but Cobb happens to have the swankiest of strength and he slings Yehi around like a bitch. A GODDAMN FLAWLESS DROPKICK BY MASSIVE COBB. Watching Cobb throw people around is a thing of beauty, like some kind of graceful Gary Albright or something. The reaction from the crowd when Cobb hits his standing moonsault is worth the watch on this alone. ***1/2